HENRIETTA TWP. — The Firelands Falcons were determined to not let Mason Montgomery and Jonah Pfeil beat them Tuesday.
Fellow senior Reese Miller took full advantage of the attention given to two of Vermilion’s top players, scoring a game-high 21 points in a 67-44 non-conference win.
Vermilion improved to 15-2 while Firelands fell to 3-12. More importantly for the Sailors, they get the Stillman Cup — the trophy these rivals play for in every sport.
“The rivalry is insane,” Miller said. “Every sport it’s a battle. Football I don’t think we’ve won in the last four years and basketball we’ve won the last four years. Everything else, it’s just a tossup. To come in here and get it back for the time being is an awesome feeling.”
Montgomery finished with seven points and Pfeil — whom coach Kurt Habermehl brought off the bench so senior Mark Morris could get his first start of the season — added 14. He made an instant impact, recording a steal and a layup on his first play.
“Jonah gives us a lot of energy,” Habermehl said.
“He brings a lot of confidence and he’s not afraid to knock down shots. He’s a great player because of his confidence and his willingness to take shots.”
Miller had a number of key moments. He scored seven in the first quarter and had 16 points by halftime. His best stretch came in the second quarter, scoring seven straight to help push the Sailors’ lead to 29-16.
The other thing that went great for the Sailors was their defense, which forced Firelands into 24 turnovers through three quarters, finishing with 27. They did so while committing just eight fouls, resulting in Firelands attempting two free throws for the game, missing both.
“They just get up on the ball,” Firelands guard Austin Urban said. “They play great defense, and when you play great defense it’s hard to get around it. We weren’t playing our basketball.”
Urban had a key sequence right out of halftime — scoring the first eight points for the Falcons to cut the Vermilion lead to 15. Firelands also managed to turn the Sailors over five times in the third quarter. But the Vermilion defense tightened up again, finishing the period with nine turnovers, and the Sailors ultimately scored 20 points.
Firelands center Jacob Schmitz, who led the team with 16 points and nine rebounds, had a scare early in the fourth quarter, suffering what looked like a leg injury. However, coach Alan Januzzi said he just cramped up and should be fine.
“When you play a great team like this, every mistake that you make you pay for,” Januzzi said. “It’s good to play good teams like this so that you can learn and understand the consequences of those mistakes. I thought out kids competed and adapted, they didn’t lay down.”
Vermilion 67, Firelands 44
VERMILION (67): Reese Miller 7-5-21, Mason Montgomery 2-2-7, Luke Pena 1-0-2, Seth Hurd 3-2-8, Mark Morris 0-0-0, Jonah Pfeil 6-0-14, Zach Kovach 0-4-4, Ryan Habermehl 1-1-3, Sterling Benko 0-0-0, Kameron Caskey 3-0-6, Davis McDaniel 0-0-0, Hunter Etienne 1-0-2. Totals 24-14-67.
FIRELANDS (44): Mitchell Hodges 3-0-6, Alex Angle 1-0-2, Jacob Schmitz 8-0-16, Casey Kelley 2-0-6, Austin Urban 4-0-11, Jackson Talbott 1-0-3, Caden Bomback 0-0-0, Jacob Farley 0-0-0. Totals 19-0-44.
Vermilion 18 19 20 10 — 67
Firelands 10 6 16 12 — 44
Three-point goals: Vermilion 5-26 (19 percent, Miller 2, Pfiel 2, Montgomery), Firelands 6-21 (29 percent, Urban 3, Kelley 2, Talbott). Field goals: Vermilion 24-59 (41 percent), Firelands 19-41 (46 percent). Free throws: Vermilion 14-17 (82 percent), Firelands 0-2. Rebounds: Vermilion 27 (Hurd 6, Montgomery 6), Firelands 29 (Schmitz 9). Total fouls: Vermilion 8, Firelands 13. Turnovers: Vermilion 8, Firelands 27.
Junior varsity: Vermilion, 50-34.